The .44 Magnum: A Historical Look

The .44 magnum will forever be linked to Detective “Dirty Harry” Callahan ridding the streets of crime on the big screen.

The history of the .44 magnum cartridge is a lot deeper than that of Hollywood.

Elmer Keith was the driving factor behind the invention of the .44 magnum. Mr. Keith hot loaded .44 special cartridges past their maximum allowed dimensions, and he needed a bigger cartridge.

The .44 magnum was born in 1955 in the Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver, and released to the public a year later. This Model 29 is the revolver that made Clint Eastwood famous as the vigilante cop Harry Callahan in “Dirty Harry” and “Magnum Force.”

Guns and Ammo


The .44 magnum is an extremely versatile cartridge. A vast array of bullet weights can be loaded into this casing, and different velocities and recoil levels also can be attained using the right powder and bullet weight combination.

Yes, there is even a shotshell load for shooting those pesky pigeons and rats in the barn.

Always use safety glasses and ear plugs, as this cartridge is loud!

Real Guns


In the past years, new cartridges have come out for the .44 magnum that have also made it a great short-to-medium range big game rifle cartridge. This is especially true of the quick-firing lever action rifles that can use Hornady’s LeveRevolution cartridges.

Thanks to the more aerodynamic polymer tipped bullets, these cartridges can be used in the tube magazines without fear of the bullet nose detonating the cartridge primer in front of it.

Flatter trajectories and faster velocities occur with these great cartridge offerings.


The .44 magnum is the go-to cartridge in Alaska and other states where big, toothy animals roam. Though the cartridge has lost some clout to larger, more beastly revolver cartridges, such as the Smith & Wesson .500, it is still a favorite with sportsmen.

It will take down any game with the right bullets as it did a half century ago. Long live the .44 magnum!